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And then you do

Old Age Pensioner…

In a little over a month’s time I shall, if spared, become an Old Age Pensioner. I roll the phrase around inside my grizzled old head for a moment, then spit it out contemptuously.

My grandfather was an Old Age Pensioner. I can’t possibly be compared with someone his age. I used to go occasionally to the hospital with my grandmother, where she was having a course of injections of metallic gold, supposed to cure her ‘rheumatism’, and see the Old Age Pensioners queuing up for the podiatrician to cut the ingrowing yellow old toenails they could no longer reach, on the free National Health Service, and think ‘there but for the grace of God I hope I never go’.

They must have been, what, 60?

And but for the accident when she slipped on the ice and broke her arm and the hospital left her in agony on a gurney in the corridor for five hours and she took to her armchair and eventually ten years later died from lack of exercise at the age of only 90, my granny would probably have lived to be 100.

The thought is both horrifying and comforting, in equal measure. I don’t think politically correctly speaking we still call the Over 65s ‘Old Age Pensioners’, as most of us are still on drugs and trying hard to accommodate Arctic Monkeys into our musical schema, and wondering if it isn’t time we made that pilgrimage back to Glastonbury with our teenage children by our third marriage and maybe think of changing our career trajectory….

As our society ages, we can all get excited by the return to the Hammersmith Odeon… sorry, Apollo, of the delicious Kate Bush, 56, making her first concert appearance since the Music Halls closed, and dream of happier times. The great Lord Page of Zeppelin is also much in the news, his playing on the 1968 single, ‘Whole Lotta Love’, having just been voted Best Guitar Riff of All Time by listeners to BBC Radio 2, the station for Old Age Pensioners.

Did I just bogl that yesterday? Can’t remember. Probably. Anyway…

I’ve said it before, but comparisons are indeed odious, whatever that tired aphorism actually means. There is, of course, no ‘Best’ of anything, ever. Can we say that Liane Carroll is the ‘Best’ jazz singer ever? How does she compare, say, with Billie Holiday, or Ella Fitzgerald? What we can say is that the eclectic modern music scene and her insistence on retaining her commercial and creative independence have allowed Liane to range with absolute assurance across a far broader musical spectrum than either of those undoubted Greats, whose output was channeled through the much narrower music industry and culture of their day.

And she must be, what, 60?

Old Age Pensioner. It’s not something you think much about when you’re 25. By 35 you’re so riddled with angst you can’t think about anything much, except your upcoming divorce and whether you made the right career decision and where’s your next car coming from? By 45 you’re balding, overweight, impotent and about ready to give up, yet there’s another twenty years to get through somehow, probably riddled with cancer and on the verge of bankruptcy. And the thought of hitting 65 knowing the teenage actuaries in the insurance racket are glumly predicting that you will cling on to your pension annuity for twenty years more, thanks to the wonders of modern NHS medicine, is just outrageous.

And then you do.

Personally, I would have voted for the Best Guitar Solo of all time, Andrew Latimer’s playing on the track ‘Lunar Sea’, from the album Moon Madness, by Camel. Or maybe something by Dave Gilmour. Even Page’s solo on ‘Stairway to Heaven’, to my mind still the best rock track ever, ever. You young whippersnappers wouldn’t have the faintest idea. By an amusing coincidence,  ‘Lunar Sea’ was recorded, in 1976, at the very same Hammersmith Odeon (sorry, Apollo) where the mighty Bush made her triumphant re-emergence on the stage last night.

I once saw Dizzy Gillespie play there.

Hey ho.


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